The Common Inheritance, The Common Defense

A bit of self promotion here, but I’ve got a piece in today’s Boston Globe that might be of interest to some here.

It’s a look at what the idea of the commons — not just the abstract, model commons of Garrett Hardin’s famous essay, but the historical commons as actually lived and used — can tell us about current problems.  The TL:DR is that commons are not inherently prone to tragedy, but that the preservation of communal goods requires…wait for it…communal action: regulation, self-regulation.

This is, of course, exactly what the Republican Party denies — more, loathes and condemns.  With Trump, they’re getting their way, but its vital to remember that the consequences that will flow from these decisions are not down to him, or simply so: the entire Republican power structure is eager to do this, and when we pay the price, we must remember who ran up the bill.

Anyway, here’s a taste from my piece.  Head on over to the Globe’s site if you want more.

The idea of the commons is deeply woven through the history of the English countryside. Shakespeare captured this idyllic approach to nature’s wealth in “As You Like It,” when the shepherd Corin explains to the cynic Touchstone the joys of his life. “I earn that I eat, get that I wear,” he says, adding that “the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes graze and my lambs suck” — in the unowned, readily shared Forest of Arden.

There can be trouble in such an Eden, as Hardin pointed out in an influential 1968 paper. Hardin asked what would happen if access to a commons were truly unfettered — if Corin and every other villager ran as many sheep as they could there. In such cases, Hardin argued, the endgame is obvious: Too many animals would eat too much fodder, leaving the ground bare, unable to support any livestock at all.

The evolution of resistance to antibiotics fits that story perfectly. The first modern bacteria-killing drug, penicillin, came into widespread use in 1944, as American laboratories raced to produce millions of doses in time for D-Day. The next year, its discoverer, Alexander Fleming, used his Nobel Prize lecture to describe precisely how this wonder drug could lose its power, telling the sad tale of a man who came down with a strep infection. In his tale, Mr. X didn’t finish his course of penicillin, and his surviving microbes, now “educated” (Fleming’s term), infected his wife. When her course of penicillin failed to eradicate these now-resistant microbes, Mrs. X died — killed, Fleming said, by her husband’s carelessness. It took just one more year for this fable to turn into fact: In 1946, four American soldiers came down with drug-resistant gonorrhea, the first such resistance on record.

 

Go on — check it out.  You want to hear about the great Charnwood Forest rabbit riot.  You know you do…

Image: Jacopo da Ponte, Sheep and Lambc. 1650.



Government, Meet Bathtub

It’s easy to run a government that does (next to) nothing.

Here’s where Trumpism — or really Pence-ism, or really, exactly what the GOP has been promising (threatening) will have its most immediate, and quite possibly its most damaging impact:

Staffers for the Trump transition team have been meeting with career staff at the White House ahead of Friday’s presidential inauguration to outline their plans for shrinking the federal bureaucracy, The Hill has learned.

The departments of Commerce and Energy would see major reductions in funding, with programs under their jurisdiction either being eliminated or transferred to other agencies. The departments of Transportation, Justice and State would see significant cuts and program eliminations.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting would be privatized, while the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities would be eliminated entirely.

Overall, the blueprint being used by Trump’s team would reduce federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years.

The NEH and NEA cuts are at once symbolic — the GOP is killing stuff liberals like, which is reward enough in those quarters — and, I think, intended to distract from other hugely reckless choices:

The Heritage blueprint used as a basis for Trump’s proposed cuts calls for eliminating several programs that conservatives label corporate welfare programs: the Minority Business Development Agency, the Economic Development Administration, the International Trade Administration and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. The total savings from cutting these four programs would amount to nearly $900 million in 2017.

At the Department of Justice, the blueprint calls for eliminating the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Violence Against Women Grants and the Legal Services Corporation and for reducing funding for its Civil Rights and its Environment and Natural Resources divisions.

At the Department of Energy, it would roll back funding for nuclear physics and advanced scientific computing research to 2008 levels, eliminate the Office of Electricity, eliminate the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and scrap the Office of Fossil Energy, which focuses on technologies to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Under the State Department’s jurisdiction, funding for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Paris Climate Change Agreement and the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are candidates for elimination.

The single most important point I can make is that this is the Kansas-ification of America.  This isn’t a Trump policy choice.  This is Mike Pence shepherding plans the Republican Party has been trying to implement for years, decades even.  I doubt it will all get through, but much of it will, I’d guess, and when it does we will need to hang every shitty outcome and terrible choice around the neck of every Republican officeholder.

This is what they want. This is what they told us they wanted. They’re likely going to get it, to some approximation.  And they’re going to have to own it, so that once again, Democrats can come in and fix the serial catastrophes we’re going to witness very damn soon.

Also, too — who wants to bet all the pieties about the deficit and restoring balance to the budget will fall to the tax cuts to come?

Fuck it.  I’m heading back to the seventeenth century.

Image: Francesco de Rossi, Bathesheba at her Bath1552-1554.



Open Thread: Welfare Ranchers Get No Respect

There’s never a FREEDUMB-loving billionaire around when you really need one…

Any of our BundyBund-addicted lawyers (or others) want to weigh in on the chance that Koch beneficiary and “snake oil salesman” Ken Ivory might finally have skirted one government regulation too many here? Who’s got standing to address this?



Late Night Creepshow Open Thread: Nothing Says FREEDUMB Like Locking People Up

Would-be seditionist and “GOP manly man” (note new Lincoln-esque beard) Senator Tom Cotton is outraged, outraged!

… He described efforts to restore voting rights to felons as a partisan tactic to drive up Democratic turnout and make it easier for people to find jobs after they exit prison. At one point, he directly accused such policies of creating higher rates of crime.

There are 2.3 million Americans in jails, prisons, and juvenile corrections facilities today. Nearly one half of all American children have at least one parent with a criminal record, which makes it prohibitively difficult to even get a job interview let alone find employment.

America is by far the world’s leading jailer, with less than 5 percent of the planet’s population but more than 20 percent of its prison population. Half of all the countries in the world imprison fewer than 150 out of every 100,000 citizens. The U.S. puts 716 out of every 100,000 Americans is in prison — compared to 475 in Russia, 294 in South Africa, 274 in Brazil, 132 in Malaysia, and 80 in Egypt…

It may be tempting to dismiss Cotton as an unserious figure. But his backward approach to criminal justice is already having a tangible influence on the still-young bipartisan movement to walk back years of self-defeating policy crafted in the heyday of Tough On Crime politics…

My emphasis. Imagine the horror, says the bought & paid for Kochsucker, of making it easier for former felons to get jobs, i.e., removing them from the prison-industrial complex that siphons so much money to the right (Right) pockets. And they’d probably use their new freedoms to vote wrong, too.



Late Night Open Thread: No Thanks, Mr. Koch

Former College Republican & current ABC News shill Jon Karl got himself an invite to Charles Koch’s sanctum sanctorum, and he could not be more impressed:

Charles Koch says he won’t “put a penny” into trying to stop Donald Trump, that there are “terrible role models” among the remaining Republican presidential candidates, and that his massive political network may decide to sit out of the presidential race entirely.

“These personal attacks and pitting one person against the other — that’s the message you’re sending the country,” Koch said in an exclusive interview with ABC News that aired Sunday. “You’re role models and you’re terrible role models. So how — I don’t know how we could support ’em.”…

“We haven’t put a penny in any of these campaigns, pro or con,” Koch said. “That’s not what we do. What we’re trying to do is build alliances to make the country better.”

Instead Koch said he and his brother plan to stay out of the party’s nomination fight…

Koch went so far as to say the GOP nightmare of another Clinton presidency might be a better alternative to the remaining Republican candidates at this point.

“It’s possible,” he said…

You can watch more of the interview at the link, but it’s basically 75% arse-covering (not our fault! you can’t prove one cent came from us!) and 25% complaining that you just can’t buy good help any more (seventeen GOP candidates and not one worth a bucket of warm spit!). That parvenu Trump is sucking up all the attention, Ted Cruz couldn’t sell meat to a hungry dog, and some pissant casino mogul is getting more attention than True American Heartland Job Creators(tm) like you-know-who. And despite what Dick Cheney might think, there’s still no cure for mortality…
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Late Night Open Thread: Have the Kochs Chickened Out?

Or — parsimonious businessmen that they are — do they just figure Trump’s doing their job this election cycle?

From the Reuters article:

… The decision by the billionaire industrialists is another setback to Republican establishment efforts to derail the New York real estate mogul’s bid for the White House, and follows speculation the Kochs would soon launch a “Trump Intervention.”…

Three sources close to the Kochs said the brothers made the decision because they were concerned that spending millions of dollars attacking Trump would be money wasted, since they had not yet seen any attack on Trump stick.

The Koch brothers are also smarting from the millions of dollars they pumped into the failed 2012 Republican presidential bids of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, the sources said…



Excellent Read: “Rebranding the Koch Brothers”

I’ve got a copy of Dark Money on order, but meanwhile, Mayer’s article in the January 25th issue of the New Yorker is well worth reading, even if you have to go find a print copy:

On the night of November 2nd, well-dressed Wichita residents formed a line that snaked through the lobby of the city’s convention center. They all held tickets to the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala, which had drawn thirty-five hundred people. The evening’s featured speaker, Charles Koch, had lived in town almost all of his eighty years, but few locals—even prominent ones—had ever laid eyes on him. Charles, along with his brother David, owns virtually all of the energy-and-chemical conglomerate Koch Industries, which is based in Wichita and has annual revenues of a hundred and fifteen billion dollars. Charles’s secretive manner, right-wing views, and concerted campaign to exert political influence by spending his fortune have made him an object of fascination, especially in his home town. “You never see him,” one local newsman whispered. “He hates publicity.” He paused. “Please don’t quote me on that!”…

Charles shared the stage with Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, the co-hosts of the MSNBC cable show “Morning Joe,” whom Koch Industries had chosen to serve as moderators. The audience laughed as Koch recalled such boyhood misadventures as his expulsion from military school. He amiably described early business mistakes, and he pointedly criticized Republicans as well as Democrats…

Starting in 2010, a controversial series of rulings by the federal judiciary and the Supreme Court essentially licensed unlimited political spending by corporations, unions, and individuals. Charles and David—a seventy-five-year-old patron of the arts, who is the wealthiest resident of Manhattan—were unusually prepared to take advantage of this shift. They had set up a broad alliance of donors and advocacy organizations to support conservative candidates who share their “pro-business” opposition to regulation, entitlements, and taxes. This network has since become one of the most powerful political forces in the country: a libertarian advocacy group backed by the brothers, Americans for Prosperity, has directors in thirty-four states. According to Politico, twelve hundred people work full-time for the Koch network—more than three times the number of people who work for the Republican National Committee.

A new, data-filled study by the Harvard scholars Theda Skocpol and Alexander Hertel-Fernandez reports that the Kochs have established centralized command of a “nationally-federated, full-service, ideologically focused” machine that “operates on the scale of a national U.S. political party.” The Koch network, they conclude, acts like a “force field,” pulling Republican candidates and office-holders further to the right. Last week, the Times reported that funds from the Koch network are fuelling both ongoing rebellions against government control of Western land and the legal challenge to labor unions that is before the Supreme Court…

***********
The Kochs’ strategy began to change after the last Presidential election. Having spent so much money trying to defeat Obama, they were stunned when he was reëlected. As late as Election Day, their political advisers were assuring them that Mitt Romney had secured the Presidency. The 2012 defeat led the Kochs and their advisers into an intense period of review. Most of the postmortem took place in private, but in March, 2013, a clue to the Kochs’ line of thinking was offered by Arthur Brooks, the president of the American Enterprise Institute. In a speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, Brooks, who frequently attends the Kochs’ political retreats, offered a diagnosis of what had gone wrong in 2012.

Brooks told the audience that a single statistic explained why conservatives had lost. In polls, he said, only a third of respondents agreed that Republicans “cared about people like” them. And fewer than half of Americans believed that Republicans cared about the poor. Conservatives had an empathy problem. This was important, Brooks explained, because Americans almost universally believed that “fairness matters.” He went on, “I know it makes you sick to think of that word, ‘fairness.’ ” But Americans, he said, overwhelmingly believed that “it’s right to help the vulnerable.”… Read more